My Hands

Never idle, on the move, ink pours on the page

The force that drives, a needed guide, is with me on this stage

I try to be an optimist, but sometimes I’m consumed by rage

Thinking of how things are done and how they could so quickly change

Yes all the world’s a stage you know, it’s something that you shan’t forget

The sun and stars would get along if only they’d shake hands and met

Humanity could follow suit, we’ve got the tech but somehow, yet

We manage to exacerbate the very things we should forget

Fossil fuels and everything, you know that it’s all temporary

But tell me more of how it works, and how mining isn’t mercenary

If you truly want to change the world into a gilded sanctuary

Then play the long game not the short, and hire you an actuary

Maybe they can run the numbers, project a truth that you won’t like

Their findings likely point to truth like human beings should take a hike

Sure, we all know that we need to build that interstate or that turnpike

Yet as we do this trees are cut, it’s like the land of the Third Reich

Yes it’s so, the world’s a stage, it’s just a game of checkers, chess

We put our pieces on the board, where we think they’ll help us best

And when we find a new chance to establish ourselves, let me guess

You want to build a military presence just to clean the mess

Sure my man, come on down, bring your gadgets and your tech

Cause I don’t really care what happens as long as I get that big check

You see this is why the world is wasted, all it’s countries are a wreck

We let the people be in charge that only care for their own neck

Maybe one day you’ll wake up, realize that this dream of yours

Doesn’t have to happen this way and you won’t be on all fours

Rising up and taking charge, you’ll fight and finely take these lands

Until then I’ll try my best, just writing with my moving hands

Torn

The world is torn, its seams are frayed

They say they’ve wished them well and prayed

So many hold opinions, strong

But words are where they stop, its wrong

 

For if the ones who claim to care

Are genuine, then where’s their fare?

What costs have they all taken on?

Outside of tweets, or Facebook pawns?

 

Let me make this very clear

My life is committed to this, hear?

My books, my poems, they share a theme

The world, it needs a better dream

 

So while you spit and spread your hate

Know your words carry no weight

Keep posting, crying, doing naught

You’re dead weight, friend, an empty pot

My Lake Chateau

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Come my friend, its you, I know, that stands outside my Lake Chateau. I took a walk, just hours ago, and now I sit by this window. Please, my friend, I’ve something to show; come join me through the portico. Open the door – its unlocked, you know, and come share this fine, old, red Bordeaux.

There’s something that you need to see, to understand this sad world’s plea. There’s things outside that I foresee, things He’ll, sadly, guarantee. Do you see that burning tree? The wars, the death, black in the sea? The children who were slain by the melancholy and the man who was murdered for saying “I disagree?” Tell me, my friend, if this is what we should put up with without lifting our hands that are free.

I ask that again, you take a look at this place. Look out and observe all the hatred we face. Let your eyes fall upon things outside your safe space and truly grasp all the things that this world should replace. And let me say this, because just in case; its understood that people will always displace what’s right and what’s wrong but that’s no excuse – just disgrace.

A disgrace it is, that we’ve let this become a Hell for the most and a Haven for some. So few can parade, scraping up every crumb, as the patrons they need are left treated like scum. They measure one’s worth based on things, or income, and their vanity echoes like the beat of a drum. Come closer, my friend, you’ll hear irony strum, for history’s song is that the end always comes.

It comes at a time when they’ve all had enough, a time when they realize they’re not all that tough, the people will gather, strip away the handcuff and step forward with honor as they call their God’s bluff.

So let these words warn you, the ones of occult. Do the right thing, or face a revolt.

Create

Certain things are always true

Regardless of the age

Ere the days when flame was new

A truth has set the stage

There are certain people who

Enjoy a special gift

Yet many take for granted, too

Our ones who fuel the lift

Using innovation; thought

Relentless drive it seems

Deeply thinking; led and fought

Reshaping worlds with dreams

Ever are they changing Earth

As they bravely write our fate

Molding culture since its birth

So thanks; all who create

Tough Love

When you’re bored, don’t bitch at me

Just shut your trap and write, you dweeb

Don’t pout and whine and stare and blink

Just grab that pen and think and think

 

Come up with something folks will read

And sell it so your dog can feed

Don’t waste your time excusing the

Stops to productivity

 

Its not that hard, just look at me

This poem right here took two or three

Minutes to type, unless you need

To count the time I took to pee
Cause then its four, technically

But hey who’s counting? My point, you see

Is writing can come easily

If only you just sit…and think

What We Are

At night, I know, my mind has proved

For that’s when all the mask’s removed

We work and play, and yet we think

Of all the things we want, a link

 

A link to all we want to be

So instead we make a fantasy

We dream and wish and wish and dream

And then when morning comes, we scream

 

We live the lives we’re taught to live

And bottle up the love we’d give

The sense it makes, you know its true

And yet we still uphold the glue

 

We’re holding on, to something that

Is natural, don’t fear it, Matt

But lies, deceit, it rules in fonts

Because we can’t admit our wants

 

This self deception, shining clear

Is why we’ve dug this hole right here

One day we’ll know, just what we are

Just animals, we’ve not gone far

Don’t Wait

Oftentimes, I’ll look to see

The person looking back at me

Watching through a hazy lens

At who that strange reflection is

 

Staring forward, several blinks

Is he the person that he thinks?

Does he do the things he speaks?

Is practice coming from the preach?

 

My eyes still glare, this man ahead

I’ll wonder what, that day, is said

Right now I live, and yet I dread

What memory, of me when dead

 

What mark have I bestowed upon

The family that I belong

I hope they say, when I’m a thought

That happiness is what he brought

 

Improved the lives, of all the men

The girls and kids, the children

For life is but a journey, yes

We walk and run, we talk and dress

 

We do the things we love to do

To make ourselves enjoy the dew

Every day, a precious gift

So smile wide, and heart uplift

 

This path is short, don’t waste your time

Just search and search until you find

The purpose you’ve been looking for

Unlock and open passion’s door

Unsung Heroes: Our Black Brothers & Sisters

In the midst of another era of racial and socioeconomic tension, America finds itself yet again divided. Its still to be decided as to how things will play out, but if one thing is for certain, its this: things must change. Folks are going to have to start getting along, or these violent riots and protests are going to rip our nation apart.

There is something lingering, however, that I think needs to be addressed. In my discussions with people on all sides of these issues, I’ve noticed that there is a certain degree of doubt as to how much our society and culture has truly benefited from the contributions of black Americans (and other minorities). While most people I speak to don’t come from the standpoint of looking down on minorities, many do seem to neglect certain contributions they have made, whether intentionally or not.

In light of this, I have decided to put together a list of some great people of color who, throughout our history, have impacted us all in a positive way. Some you may not have heard of, and some you may know quite dearly. The point is to illustrate how important we ALL are in our human quest to create a loving, inclusive society. There is no shortage of white characters who have received recognition, we all know that. So hopefully, by highlighting some of the others, the folks who still seem to foster the “white supremacy” opinion will take a harder look at the reality of this world we share. We’re all trying, people. Love each other – it shouldn’t be that hard, right?

GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER

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Many people don’t know this, but GWC, a freed slave turned brilliant scientist, was a monumental influence on Vice President Henry Wallace. Wallace, a farmer from Iowa, used GWC’s ideas to enormously boost corn production during World War II, filling increasing needs of our exploding economy.

BASS REEVES

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Bass was the first black US deputy Marshall West of the Mississippi. He basically destroyed outlaws and was an overall bad-ass, for want of a better term. He caught all the bad guys, and even killed 14 people in self defense. Keepin’ all them white folk safe!

BUFFALO SOLDIERS

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The Buffalo Soldiers was a term used for many regiments of black American soldiers who fought in many wars, originating in the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army in 1866. The term came from Native Americans, who thought their hair resembled that of Buffalo hair. They contributed to many great American victories, and served valiantly for their country. The term was used loosely by some to describe all black soldiers, but the history here is important to know. Many of our victories would never have been possible without the brave efforts of what many referred to as the “Negros Cavalry”.

TUSKEGEE AIRMEN

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Many have probably heard of these fellas, as there is now a big Hollywood movie about them. These guys were the first African American Air Unit in WWII, and went on many selfless missions to fight the good fight. Lot of great sub stories in these guys ranks, too. Check em out!

JOHN ALBERT BURR

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Anyone know a guy who owns a landscaping company? I sure do. Lots. And they can all thank Mr. John Albert Burr for pretty much inventing modern lawn mowing and paving the way for profits! That’s right, you’re looking at the man who invented the rotary lawn mowing blade – U.S. patent #624,749.

PERCY JULIAN

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Percy Julian was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, making great discoveries in the fields of healthcare, with a focus on synthetic compounds. His work far exceeds my intellectual prowess, but folks should know that many of the compounds we enjoy today in the field of medicine were made possible by him.

ELIJAH MCCOY

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Elijah McCoy was an inventor. A thinker. An innovator. Throughout his life, he made trains more efficient,  improved oil rigs, and even honed steam engines. He was a brilliant man, capable of some of the most efficient thought from an engineering perspective. He even invented a movable ironing board to help make ironing-on-the-go easier. You’re welcome, ladies.

LEWIS LATIMER

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Lewis Latimer was paramount in further perfecting the light bulb. He led efforts installing electric plants in cities such as Philadelphia and Montreal. Without him, the incandescent bulb might not be what it is today. Thanks Lewis!

ROSA PARKS

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Rosa needs no introduction. The only thing I want to say here is that I bet she made the best neighbor EVER. You know, the one who’s always making sure the kids are behaving and aren’t doing anything stupid? Making sure they all got their homework done and came in before dinner time. I imagine that’s how Rosa was. A sweet, nice, lady who stood up (or in this case sat down) for what’s right. We need more of her.

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Now, I could go on and on and on and on with this, but this is the point, in case anyone’s missed it. All of these people did things for the greater good, not for one side or the other. They never berated other people, they just uplifted folks. That’s the direction we need to be moving, everyone. Forward. Up. Not backwards, or down.

A good question to ask yourself if you’re considering making a move in this game of life: what direction will this push people in?

For Better or Worse (Ch 6)

Caution: Creatures may occasionally engage in physical conflict. It is important for the owner of the habitat to pay close attention to how your terrarium’s occupants are grouped. Indicators of impending conflict may include, but are not limited to:

  • Two large groups of inhabitants facing one another in close proximity. Usually preceded by audible squealing of the creatures as a collective.
  •  Aggressive body language, abrupt movement, and loud vocal exchanges (when occurring simultaneously). Individually these behaviors do not necessarily indicate physical conflict. 

**Important**

If your terrarium’s inhabitants group together in close proximity while carrying small, board-like signposts or other tools, separate them immediately. It is recommended you allow two to four hours before removing them from isolation to reintegrate with their fellow inhabitants. This will allow their aggressive emotions to subside, creating a more peaceful environment for your pets! 

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Closing the handbook, the little girl sets her Creature Care Taking Manual back on the bookshelf by her bed after reading it.

“Silly teenie-weenies!” She says, laughing as she turns to look at them from her bed. “See? There’s no need for you guys to fight! It says right here you’ll calm down if you yourselves a little time to blow off the steam.”

Getting up to walk over to the dome, she opens it and removes the partition she’d placed down three hours ago to separate two groups of visibly angry little creatures.

“You guys are so cute.” She says as she watches the two groups slowly make their way toward one another, eventually creating one seamless, teenie-weenie unit.

“Good job! I’m proud of you fellas.” She says.

Shutting the lid, she turns around and leaps into bed, wriggling around until she’s created a little dimple in her wide mattress. Hearing the commotion, her father enters the room to kiss her good night.

“Hello, little one. How was your day?” He asks he as he blows her candle out with his long snout.

“It was good, Daddy! I made my little guys get along.” She says cheerfully, obviously proud of herself for mitigating the conflict. “They we’re fighting over something stupid.”

Laughing and smooching her forehead, the father brushes her hair back before walking to the door.

“Good girl. I’m glad to hear that you’re a peaceful overlord.” He says with a chuckle and a wink.

“I love you Daddy!” The little girl says, shutting her eyes.

“I love you too, sweetie.” Her father whispers with a smile, gently closing the door.

For Better or Worse (Ch 5)

“Hidey hidey hoooo!!”

Happily skipping over to the habitat on her table,  the little girl in the bedroom is gleaming over the new cut she’s gotten for her fur.

“Do you like my new bangs, teenie weenies?” She excitedly asks her pets. “I know you can’t understand me, but I bet you do! They’re very pretty. Just like you guys!”

Looking to a small group of less-than-healthy-looking creatures coddled in the far rear of the dome, she grimaces.

“Well, like most of you guys, at least.” She says, rolling her head to the side as she snootily brushes her hair back. “Anyway, you’re gonna love the new toy Daddy got for you all!”

Opening the tank, the girl lifts a box and pulls out a large digital screen which depicts moving images of other small creatures that look just like her pets. The creatures displayed appear to be acting out their own little lives, similar to the ones in the terrarium. Finding a cozy spot to set it in the terrarium, she places the big screen down as the tiny inhabitants flock over in front of it, seemingly enamored as they watch the images.

“I knew you’d like it!” The girl excitedly coos, closing the lid. “No idea why, though. After all, those fake teeny weenies aren’t doing anything that you aren’t already doing yourselves! Why don’t you just watch each other, sillies?”

Happily scooting back to observe the new environment she’s created, the little girl spends the rest of her evening quietly watching them enjoy their new square of moving images.

 

Episode 7: Cultural Evolution

Episode 7! This week we talk about how far we’ve come as a species, focusing our talk on cultural evolution!

Episode 3: Institutional Reform (Part 2)

For episode 3, Johnny and Matt sit down with Virginia Corbitt, who gives insight into our education system as it was in the 1970s as opposed to the system we have today.

Will Burkitt, who contributed to Episode 1 on Purpose, rejoins as the discussion continues on to institutions such as education, criminal justice, media, government, and organized religion.

As institutional reform is such a deep and important issue, episode 3 of the show is split into two hour-long segments.

 

 

Episode 3: Institutional Reform (Part 1)

For episode 3, Johnny and Matt sit down with Virginia Corbitt, who gives insight into our education system as it was in the 1970s as opposed to the system we have today.

Will Burkitt, who contributed to Episode 1 on Purpose, rejoins as the discussion continues on to institutions such as education, criminal justice, media, government, and organized religion.

As institutional reform is such a deep and important issue, episode 3 of the show is split into two hour-long segments.

 

Reflecting on the Greats: Drew Karpyshyn

For my second entry in this series, I’ve decided to highlight someone who has had a particular impact on me in terms of inventiveness and imagination. Many of you will likely raise an eyebrow when you see the name of this writer. Yet many of you, particularly those versed in the realm of science fiction, will nod and smile in appreciation of the writer to whom I am tipping a cap.

As so many others in my generation, my recollection of my life involves a series of great stories portrayed in the form of video games. My kin were raised to the liking of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Crash Bandicoot, the list goes on. For me, personally, I always gravitated toward RPGs when it came to my video gaming habits. I suppose, subconsciously, I’ve always had a writer’s heart – as the story was first and foremost the thing that captivated me in my digital endeavors. Call of Duty is fun for awhile, but for me, I need a the intellectual stimulation of a well-written story to hold my attention for longer than a round or two of TDM.

It is for this reason that I’ve chosen to take a knee in honor of Mr. Karpyshyn. For any that are unfamiliar with him, he was a primary writer behind such behemoths as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, and (most importantly for me), the Mass Effect Series. In fact, his work on Mass Effect stemmed into several novels, elaborating on the vastly complex and beautifully-hashed-out science fiction work of art.

If you find time to look into his work, I strongly suggest you do so. The environments he achieves, the motifs that are conveyed, and the sheer quality of his writing is awe-inspiring. As a budding writer myself, I’m compelled to send my deepest appreciation for those such as him for setting such a high bar to which I can aspire.

Mack Lunn: Full Interview

Since the paper limits the word count, here is a full in depth look into what Mr. Lunn is doing.

What is the core mission of iCube?

The iCube is a multidisciplinary learning environment that makes it possible for any of our students to extend their learning into avenues that interest them outside of the classroom. We encourage personal learning, and thereby the pursuit of personal projects. We have a unique setup that intertwines different majors into working together on projects, and provide the capabilities to make sure they are equipped and knowledgeable.

We’ve received tremendous support from the administration at TTU to make this a reality. They repeat a mantra of “Imagine, Inspire, Innovate” as the three pillars of the iCube.  We are most well-known for our ability to create high-level virtual reality simulations, websites, 3D Printed projects, applications, and campaigns, but we work on a vast variety of projects applying technology.

We continuously work to give back to the University itself and find ways to integrate our teachings into the classroom, wherever possible. We are a faction of the college of engineering and the college of business, but we have found ourselves deeply entwined in many other colleges on campus, specifically Education, Nursing, and athletics.

What is a general description of what you do?
In short, I provide opportunities to learn for the students at Tennessee Tech.

I am the Manager of Special Projects at the TTU iCube, which is a title that is just ambiguous enough to allow me the privilege of using the latest and greatest technology to solve problems. I work with a great team of iCube employees and an a multidisciplinary group of students with a high drive and interest for learning. My job is to find strategic projects that offer a unique opportunity for learning, put together teams to accomplish the goals of the project, perform any necessary training and provide leadership in getting things done, and go after grants and/or funding.

On any given day when I come into work, there are robots running around, drones flying, 3D printers humming creations into existence, students working in virtual reality headsets, and more. It’s a fast-paced, open environment that requires a lot of mental agility so as to maintain a competitive edge. Moreover, in addition to keeping a finger on the pulse of technology that exists, I closely examine what is needed. I listen closely to find out what it is that students want to learn, and then make a point to integrate that if at all possible.

 

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Good with technology, but wait until you see the snowballs he can craft
What kind of projects do you work on that have societal benefits?
We have become lucky enough to be able to orient ourselves towards projects that serve a societal impact—a variety of public policy projects.

We have worked extensively with the Tennessee Aquarium at Chattanooga on some educational entertainment projects including:

* Making their electric eel power his own Twitter account, tweeting facts whenever he emits a surge of electricity.
* Implementing beacons on their mobile app that uses proximity-based notifications to alert users when they are near an endangered species while touring the aquarium
* A classroom simulation that uses VR to demonstrate the effects of pollution and other harmful behaviors on a river ecosystem
* A “Fish Finder” that is permanently installed near the saltwater reefs that allows children and their parents to deduce the species of fish they are looking at and learn more about them
* TNACIFIN – A network for field scientists that uses geo-location to map where endangered fish have been found to help with conservation efforts

For education:

* We recently launched a behavior monitoring app for the education department that allows future teachers the experience of being in a virtual classroom environment, charged with detecting behavioral issues. You can also play the role of a student -exhibiting– these issues, for fellow classmates to detect.
* One of my pet projects is MakerMinded, which is a multi-state, Department of Defense funded program aimed at integrating STEM and Advanced Manufacturing activities with middle and high school classrooms—we offer points for completing activities, visiting related facilities for tours, etc that can be used towards really cool incentives like winning a 3D printer or a virtual reality station for your classroom.
* In terms of healthcare, we have created a diabetes simulation to show what is going on inside your body to cause this disease, a tour of the heart and lungs that shows how blood becomes oxygenated, and more.
* We work closely with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office on their marketing—which has prompted us to create several educational simulations that showcase why its dangerous to drive while intoxicated, texting, or otherwise distracted or inhibited. One of the projects places users in a simulation of downtown Nashville, complete with an AI that controls the stoplights so that other drivers mimic realistic driving behaviors. The driver is then introduced to simulations of different substances to witness their effect on the driving experience.
* We are working with different research projects as well, that all hold environmental implications. One of our genius students has developed a mechanism for turning recycled water bottles into 3D Printer filament!
* We are working with the Cullman Dam, and also researching the Falling Water River, to generate both engineering and animated models to help decide what course of action will be the most beneficial

How can virtual reality help hospitals?
Hospitals are a unique environment for virtual reality development because it can be applied at so many different levels. From an entertainment perspective, patients who would otherwise be bedridden can now travel the world at a moment’s notice, or simply connect with their family and friends. From a preventative standpoint, VR offers a new tool in education to give patients an “inside look” as to what is going on inside their own bodies—a knowledge which has been proven to be linked to positive behavioral change. For future doctors—and even doctors themselves—VR serves as an interactive learning tool. We have created self-guided, narrated tours of many of the body systems that users can explore at their own pace—sort of in the same vein as the Magic School Bus, but on a much more detailed level.

As we move into the future, the impact on biomedical engineering intertwining with virtual reality has become a daily game changer—lives have been saved from this new set of tools.

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No purrfect Christmas is complete without a tabby cat

People like to know what motivates others, and what their passions are. Why do you do what you do?

I truly love what I do. I’m living every technogeek’s dream!

I love figuring things out, and never quite having the whole answer available to me—which makes the utilization of cutting edge technology very appealing. I love helping others, and being able to do so on such a broad scale is heavily rewarding. We are in the unique position to mentor students from the time they are just entering college to truly fulfill their potential and wildest dreams at the same time that we are helping major businesses with major scalable applications. I’ve gotten to tour NASA and work with the Army and travel a great deal of the US in the pursuits of creating a more broad knowledge base for our students. At the end of the day, we’re representative of the university and we are here to bolster the educational experience, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I truly care about people, and one of my core duties is to listen to people’s needs and figure out how to deliver on them, which I love doing.

The main thing I try to stress to people is to invest a little bit of time to figure out how we might be able to help create new good together. We visit middle and high schools very regularly—not to recruit, but to encourage young minds to start thinking critically and creatively early on. We have a lot of free programs where you can do, see, and earn some pretty cool stuff!

We also offer tours for school groups (and, really anyone who is interested, though we emphasize learning programs!) so if this interests you, schedule a tour and come check us out!

Pushing Boundaries: My Day at iCube

Let’s be honest – we all have a nerdy side to us.

Whether it’s experiencing a new Star Wars movie at an IMAX theater or wreaking havoc in the latest GTA game, we all enjoy an occasional escape into the newest tech. This is all well and good, considering we live in an age where technology dictates the quality of huge portions of our day to day lives. In such a rapidly advancing industry, there’s always something new right around the corner to satiate our appetites for the cutting edge.

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to get a full on peek at several ground-breaking technologies that are being worked on by the brilliant minds at iCube – a fast growing technology firm located on the campus of TN Technological University (Cookeville, TN).


When you first enter iCube, you are greeted by one of their core philosophies: IMAGINE

iCube, a firm with hardly a year of operation under its belt, has already garnered a plethora of multi million dollar projects. They’ve contracted with private and public entities, their work ranging from hospitals to municipalities.

A friend of mine, Mack Lunn, is a project manager for the institution and was kind enough to give me an in depth look at some of the projects they’re working on. Read about my experience below.


The Oculus Rift – a gateway to another world

My introductory “lesson” was to familiarize myself with one of the primary outlets they work with – virtual reality. Not long after I arrived, Mack had me strapped in and ready to delve into (for me) completely uncharted territories. Once I was positioned correctly, he tuned me into a few of the on board programs that ship with the oculus by default. They were rudimentary apps developed (I imagine) for that very purpose – familiarization. I stepped into the shoes of a virtual line cook, taking orders and cooking digital food. I protected my castle as it was besieged by hundreds of little e-barbarians. I warped into the future and defended myself from dozens of laser shooting drones, moving about in my small space to dodge their fiery attacks. Needless to say, it was freakin’ awesome.


Hitting your VR tour guide with a clipboard is exactly as much fun as it sounds

After realizing I was having entirely too much fun with the default video games that all Oculus devices ship with, Mack’s next step was to show me one of the actual projects that iCube is working on. The first thing he showed me was perhaps the most relevant in terms of scope and benefit to society, which I’ll get to shortly.

In the grand scheme of things, the virtual reality arena is in its infant stages. The technology is finally available on a wide basis, and firms are just now beginning to apply it to all sorts of different industries in a practical manner. In iCubes case, they are currently working on a program with hospitals that will benefit diabetic patients. Here’s how:


The coolest $500K ride I’ve ever been on

Apparently doctors have experienced significant difficulty with getting diabetic patients to follow nutritional and health guidelines, leading to negative results. This is a big problem in the medical field, and one that I’m sure anyone in the medical industry can attest to. So, seeing the problem, there was a behavioral psychologist who one day said “Hey, why don’t we show people what’s happening in their bodies if they ignore our instructions? Maybe then they’ll get it and start eating right.”

This is where iCube comes in. The hospital basically tells them “We have this problem. We want to show people what’s going on in their bodies, and we want them to be able to experience it as if they were inside themselves. People are more likely to respond well and follow directions if they can actually see what’s happening to them.”

iCubes response? “Say no more.”


We come in peace. Take me to your leader

Cue the visbox, the thing you just saw in the photo above. This was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in quite a long time. I got to strap on some goofy looking glasses that made me feel like I had alien antennaes and then took a holographic ride into clogged arteries, walked around inside a human heart, and was apart of a group of red blood cells straight chillin’ in someone’s veins. Needless to say the visbox experience was, as the bards would put it, “totes amaze balls”. And to cap it all, the best part is that these programs are having a positive impact on people’s health, furthering the humanitarian mission of iCube.

The next thing I got to do was tour the development studio. This was great because I’ve always wondered how things go from being an idea in someone’s head into a real program that you can fiddle around with. So Mack took me into what I can only call the Main Event Room, because it looked like that’s where most of the work was getting done. It reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen of Bethesda Studios, Bioware, and the like. Lots of figureines, loads of dual monitor setups, and some super-bad computers.


And now, the main event!

Here I was again strapped into an Oculus, only this time I was sitting in a chair. I got to play around with a project that the firm is developing for the Tennessee Aquarium, virtually snorkeling through a river as I watched contamination levels rise and fall, noting the impact it had on the aquatic ecosystem. The program they ran for me here was one that illustrated how important environmental factors are in regard to marine life.

Finally, one of the last things Mack walked me through was the world of 3D printing. Now I’m sure you’ve all heard of this, but actually seeing and fiddling around with the stuff is so much cooler than watching it online or on TV. Truthfully, I’m still somewhat floored by the fact that human beings have figured out how to literally print objects, but I digress. I doubt that’s something I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around.


3D Printed T-Rex. Rawr!

The stuff starts out as just a simple thin line of plastic, almost like a thick spool of fishing line. Moments later you might have yourself a dragon for your desk, or perhaps a tyrannosaurus if you prefer the Dino route. In any case, the 3D printing process is one of the coolest concepts I can think of in our recent history. And there’s no telling how it’s going to impact different industries. There was one story I was told where a paleontologist used to dig up dinosaur bones and make casts of the incomplete parts, selling the skeletons to museums and collectors for about $30K. His casts costed about 20/25K to produce at the end of the day, so he saw a somewhat healthy profit, right?

Well, when the 3D printers heard about this, they offered to scan the pieces bit by bit and simply print them out of their material, ultimately resulting in an absurd decrease in production costs (down to like, $500/$750). And these pieces were even more durable than the ones created before! How’s that for efficiency? This was a mere glimpse at how the world is going to be changing due to technological advances.


A 3D printed dino who’s name I can’t pronounce 

There were several other things I got to toy with during my time at iCube, but for brevity I’ll stop here. It really was one of the coolest days I’ve had in quite awhile, and I must give a very loud shout out to my friend Mack Lunn for giving me the tour. Thanks man!

The future is now.